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Keeping Tabs — a new column from GlobalCapital

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By Jasper Cox, Jon Hay, Silas Brown
24 Apr 2020

Welcome to the first edition of Keeping Tabs. There is a huge amount of information to take in at the best of times in the capital markets. During a crisis, it can be overwhelming. So, each week, we will bring you the very best of what we in the GlobalCapital newsroom have found most useful, interesting, informative and entertaining from around the web.

We'll start with this Talking Politics podcast featuring economic historian Adam Tooze. It gives great insight into how the financial markets are reacting to politics and vice versa.

The Federal Reserve and the US Treasury have used their might to stabilise financial markets, without too much political controversy. But expanding the deficit, and facilitating cheap financing to fossil fuel companies and private equity titans, through the Fed’s support of the high yield bond market, may cause ructions down the line. The podcast also discusses the political economy of global oil supply and French president Emmanuel Macron’s strategy on mutualised EU debt.

On the latter topic, George Soros argued in Project Syndicate this week that the EU should issue perpetual bonds. He says the advantages are that it could be framed as a one-off crisis response, placating fears among some member states about opening the door to continuous debt sharing, and that it would not be a large fiscal burden.

Questions of debt are also blighting the poorest countries in the world. Georgetown law professor Anna Gelpern shines a light on the debt standstill push, across two blog posts on Credit Slips. She views the G20 stance on debt as being about mobilising resources in these the neediest countries quickly, rather than dealing with heavy debt burdens in themselves. She identifies three challenges: a lack of bandwidth to implement the relief; the likelihood of the crisis returning at the end of the year; and not enough international co-operation.

But we don't just want to bring you the purely financial.

Jeffrey Sachs, the American economist known for his work on poverty, has delivered a scathing critique of the US response to the coronaviruas in The New Yorker. His criticism is aimed in particular at president Donald Trump. He told the magazine that he had “never seen anything like the narcissism of this man, and here we are, a country so rich in expertise, in resources, in capacities, and yet we’re watching a complete failure of a political response — with a massive loss of life — in real time”.

The New York Times Magazinereported on a collection of scientists tied to the World Health Organisation that have been trying to pre-emptively create vaccines in a bid to stop the next pandemic before it starts. “Disease X” is how they label the unknown threat. They say that while it is possible to create the vaccines, it will cost a lot of money — something that governments have not yet been inclined to give.

Meanwhile, the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change has come up with a paper laying out how different lockdown exit strategies might work.

Finally, Ronald Hutton, professor of history at Bristol University, writes in The Idler about how lockdowns were very common in 16th century England, especially London, due to regular scourges of plague and other diseases. This had remarkable effects on the flourishing theatre culture of the time.

By Jasper Cox, Jon Hay, Silas Brown
24 Apr 2020